LEGO has produced more than 4000 different Minifigures. Their variety approaches the one of small biological systems. Similar to pre-gentic biologist, we need a taxonomy to order the Minifigures. Several online communities, such as Peeron, Bricklink, Lugnet and Bricksets have created such taxonomies, which are based on the LEGO themes of the sets in which the Minifigure appeared first. If, for example, a new LEGO sets in the theme “SpongeBob SquarePants” contains a new Minifigure, then this figure will be put in the category “SpongeBob SquarePants”.
This does seem like a pretty easy system, but it also faces problems. First, the number of themes has grown dramatically. It would be very confusing if the taxonomy would have only one level, based on the themes. Second, some themes, such as Town and City, have so many sets, that it appears necessary to use sub categories. Third, not all sets can be associated to a theme to start with. In particular the very early sets did not even have specific themes. Last, the different communities have not agreed on a standard taxonomy.
Its main new features are:
- All figures that do not have a standard torso, such as Duplo and Basic, are part of the category “non standard torso”. REVISION: non-standard refers to the scale of the figure. A Star Wars robot would still fall into this category, but not a Technic or Duple figure.
- All licensed themes, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, are part of the category “licensed”
- Themes that try to mimic realty are part of the non-fictional category
- Themes that include fantastic elements are part of the fiction category
- Themes that try to realistically mimic historical periods are part of the “historical” category
- There is no distinction between “Town” and “City”
Besides categorizing the figures, we also need to have a nomenclature. The Linnaean taxonomy uses the the combination of a genus name and a second term. Of course we should not use Latin terms, as proposed by Linnaeus. We could us acronyms and serial numbers. Here is my proposal:
- aaa stands for the second last level in the taxonomy, for example stw for Star Wars
- bbb stands for the last level in the taxonomy, for exampel ep1 for Episode 1
- yyyy stands for the year in which the figure was produced first, for example 2001
- sss stands for a three digit serial number with preceedings zeros, for example 007
The advantage of this nomenclature is that distinguish between the older figures in the Town theme from the newer figures in the City theme. This is a first design and it is likely that I missed important aspects. I would like to invite you discuss this new taxonomy with me by posting comments through the boxes below.